Posted on May 30th, 2016 No commentsThe mystery of the vanishing engine!
Duke Engines in New Zealand. Google them, you’ll find material on their unique five-cylinder axial engine…from back in 2011 or so. it was said that this engine was lighter, more compact, and more powerful than an equivalent standard engine. Touted as ideal for aircraft, motor cycles, outboard engines and the like, the motor attracted a great deal of attention.
Apparently a well-funded company with solid investors and shareholders, Duke had working prototypes independently tested in the UK and USA. Yet, neither their web site nor their facebook page has anything later than March, 2013. As far as the Internet is concerned, they’ve vanished.
A check with the NZ Companies branch shows that they’ve filed regular updates and annual reports since their incorporation in 2001; their latest filing was July 28, 2015 — so they’re still around…maybe. NZ white and yellow pages don’t have a listing for them under the name Duke Engines. A reverse search for the phone number on their home page leads to Helensville, Warkworth, Hibiscus Coast, Great Barrier Island rather than to the registered corporate address in Auckland.
Strange. I wonder if they found some military applications and were sworn to secrecy?
This article suggests that they simply ran out of money. http://idealog.co.nz/tech/2014/04/thankless-quest-build-engine-future
In the end, it turned out to be not such a mystery after all. I emailed the company and received a reply confirming that they are out of funds and looking for an investor to help them go into production.
If you have a spare $6M, they’d love to hear from you.
Posted on May 14th, 2016 No comments
I almost never recommend products or brands. But I recently tested the free version of InPixio PhotoClip 7 and was so impressed that I bought the full version the same day.
PhotoClip consists of two components: Eraser and Cutter
Photo Eraser lets you remove unwanted elements from a photo. Depending on how much you want to remove, and how much time you want to spend at it, and what the background is behind the removed bit is, the software works well and often amazingly well. “The technical features of Photo Clip automatically identify the sections of an image that need to be filled in and make your new photo look natural and seamless,” says the InPixio site. What that means is that you can just click on or outline the part to be removed, then click Erase.
This works best when the background is fairly simple, such as sand or water or sky. The examples on the InPixio site are all of this type. Certainly, these are quick and easy to do.
Here are two photos, before and after, done with Erase: The background of the dancers was really busy, so this took some work. First, I cropped the photo to only the central couple. Next, I removed parts on the floor, which left “floor colored” background on the bottom. Next I removed the photos on the wall (which left a “wall colored” background. Finally I removed the man in the white shirt and jeans, then the fellow in purple shirt and black pants. I couldn’t just click the white shirt, because the software then removed the lady’s white blouse. I had to “lasso” each part I wanted removed. Took a while, but you see the result at right, the isolated dancers.
Yes, you can do this in PhotoShop or Gimp, but this is single-purpose software that works.
The second part is Photo Cutter. Inaptly named, this lets you take what’s left after you’ve finished erasing (or any other image) and superimpose it onto another image, creating a photomontage such as my dancers at left, placed over a romantic golden haze. The foreground image can be manipulated – resized, inverted, reversed, etc. -
The montage at right was created using both parts. First, I removed the doggie (a real photo bomb, that!) with Eraser, then superimposed the “bombed” original over top of the cleaned version with Cutter, so that you can compare the two. This particular image took only seconds to create. With a quick glance at the corner where the dog was– and possibly even after some careful study–you’d never know the image was reworked.
Because I so seldom review or recommend a product, I think you can safely conclude that I like this one, and have used it often in the week I’ve had it.
Posted on April 30th, 2016 No comments
Allow me to grumble for a moment. What is there about self-published authors that leaves them so vulnerable to egregious errors of spelling, punctuation, and grammar? Is the Alberta education system so deficient that English is not taught?
Here’s a sample of writing from Eric J. Brown of Magnolia, Alberta, posted as part of his biography on Author’s Den: “My name Is Eric Brown, [sic: comma error] I was born raised and still reside [sic: comma error] in teh [sic: the] Canadian province of Alberta. I began writing when I was 13 years old, and self published [sic: self-published] my first novel, Ginny, in 1998 adn [sic: and] have sicne [sic: since] published, [sic: comma error] Ingrid 2000, Anna 2002, The Promise 2004, and To the Last Tree Standing 2006″. Is the man dyslexic? Can he not see those errors?
Another reviewer of Brown’s work, Erica Maidment, wrote on Amazon of Anna–Her Odyssey to Freedom (2002) , “…My main complaint with this book is that it suffers from very poor editing. I am willing to overlook minor and occasional errors, but the errors were rampant and marred the text. I liked the content so much that I would really like to read some of the author’s other books, but I am apprehensive if it means slogging through so many missing quotation marks, incorrect words, incomplete sentences, and spelling errors.”
I’m currently reading Third Time Lucky, another self-publication (Magnolia Press, 2009). It’s a formulaic love story involving mail-order-bride Jane Brody and crusty suitor Ethan Phillips, set near the fictional town of Grimstad in rural Alberta, Canada, in 1925. City-born Jane needs to adapt to life in the backwoods; curmudgeonly Ethan needs to learn more civilized ways; both are socially backwards and unable to communicate. Will they be able to share their feelings? Will Jane succumb to the blarney of the lovable Irish moonshiner on the next homestead? Will she use her return ticket back to Ontario? Well, duh.
The writing is a bit flat, but it is readable, with interesting characters and enough plot movement and character development to keep me engaged.
Anachronisms abound, making me wonder just how much (or how little) research Brown did.
- Despite the story being set in 1925, Brown’s characters generally use a 21st century vernacular, such as having Jane refer to Indians as “bad guys”; an educated woman of the time might say “savages” or even “aborigines”.
- “Nonetheless, Jane was wary of her first contact with First Nations people” (p. 130) — the term “First Nations” was not in use until the 1980s.
- Brown has his characters talk of Prohibition as if it were current, even though Alberta repealed it in 1923.
- Jane is from Montreal, where Prohibition never really took hold; even so, she is a “temperance woman” (though she spent some time in Ontario, where it took hold deeply)
- The WCTU in Canada was closely associated with various churches, yet Jane is of no particular faith.
- Alberta women got the vote in 1916, and the hope was that with suffrage, women would stand firmer for temperance; yet by 1925, both Prohibition and the temperance movement had lost force, especially in Alberta. Had Brown been aware of these social and political overtones, he might have used them for a further layer of depth in his novel.
These are minor issues, and not unexpected from a self-published author, though IMO a good editor would catch them.
The run-on sentences, missing punctuation, poor construction, and misused homophones (“wrapping his fist on the table” instead of “rapping”, for example) detract significantly. All the flaws noted by Maidment in the earlier work are present in Third Time Lucky. Did the author learn nothing from his earlier novels? Did he not seek further help with proof-reading and editing?
Yet this book had not black porn one but two editor/proofreaders: the author acknowledges “Lillian Ross, fellow author and proof-reader…” and “Eileen Harrigan for her work as principal editor”. If the published manuscript is “cleaned up”, the rough draft must have been ghastly! In their defense, I will mention that the spelling is generally acceptable (although I take exception to “Whiteman” for white man). At least the spell-check is turned on in whatever word-processor he is using. Perhaps using the grammar-checker as well would help.
The characters, by the way, are always grinning. They never smile, beam, smirk, simper, or give a wry twist of the lips — they just grin. This struck me about halfway through the book, and for every page after, a character that grinned made me wince.
I don’t entirely blame the author for the book’s shortcomings; I’m sure many good writers are poor spellers and grammarians. In fact, I admire Brown for producing not only one but at least eight novels. I admire him even more for producing decent, readable prose and entertaining characters. It’s just too bad that his proof-readers can’t proof, his editors don’t edit, and his word-processing software doesn’t flag homophones for review.
A Post-Script: I had the opportunity as working with another Alberta author, Dave McKenzie, on his novel Calypso. We went through several revisions and edits, and in the end Dave produced a well-written and tightly-plotted book. Still, despite the careful work of several proof-readers, I have no doubt that we missed something, somewhere. It is our hope that whatever errors we left were minor.
Posted on October 12th, 2015 No comments
We pay really low electrical rates at our little cabin in the woods – an average of about 9 cents per kilowatt hour. So we started wondering why our power bills are are so high. There were months when we never even went out to the cabin, and used absolutely celebrity porn no electricity at all, yet we paid almost the same as for months when we did use power. Couldn’t figure out why we were paying for not using power.
When I phoned to ask about this, our electricity provider explained that the charges are “our share of the distribution costs”. In other words, they charge us a bit each month for the use of their power poles and wires, as well for a share of salaries, maintenance, etc.
Seems fair enough in a way, and clearer than rolling it into the cost of electricity. Our bill shows that, beyond a few bucks a month for electricity, we also pay for
- Administration – for the cost of billing us, I guess
- Distribution – poles & wires, I suppose
- Transmission – a small fee for shoving electrons along the wires?
- Riders – various little charges and rebates that come and go
Now, here is our average monthly electrical consumption for each of the past four years, along with all the surcharges, and the totals:
YEAR kWh Usage Energy Surcharges TOTAL 2012 128.63 11.30 74.48 85.78 2013 74.33 6.91 74.55 81.46 2014 43.75 3.56 83.60 87.16 2015 30.83 1.43 90.23 91.66
Notice that the power usage (kWh) and energy costs have declined substantially over the past four years, while the Surcharges have gone up, especially during the past three years. We’re approaching $100 a month, just for having the power lines come to the cabin.
With power costs over $1000 a year, even when we don’t use any electricity at all, off-grid solar is starting to look more attractive. A couple of years ago, I looked into it. A simple system could pay for itself in 5 to 10 years. Will we be using the cabin for that long? Would a solar system add any resale value to the place?
The main power guzzler is the water pump; a solar system to handle that would cost a lot. I can get a small auto-start generator to run the pump (and recharge the batteries if needed) for a few hundred dollars. But the biggest issue was the size and mass of storage batteries; I would have to build an addition to the cottage, specially heated and ventilated, to hold a dozen stinky acid-filled batteries.
Now, with the release of Tesla’s PowerWall, I’m revisiting the idea. Good to -20 Celsius, the thing is only about 3′ wide, 4′ high, and 7″ deep, it has internal temperature controls, is maintenance free, and would mount inside or outside the cabin. Pricey (about 4 years worth of power bills), but dang, it looks like a sensible alternative to standard bulky batteries.
Posted on August 31st, 2015 No comments
I’ve got a smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. Samsung kindly gives me one free ebook a month for six or 12 months, I forget. I dutifully download a book each month. I’ve even read a few of them. I’ve checked the price of ebooks and they’re not unreasonable. But I still prefer paper. Here’s why.
- A paper book never runs out of battery right at an interesting part
- I can trade paper books at most campgrounds for free.
- I can pick up discarded books from my local library for free.
- I can buy used paper books at garage sales and thrift shops for cheap
- If I don’t like a paper book, I can throw it against the wall in disgust.
- If I really don’t like a paper book, I can burn it in the wood stove or use it for tinder in the fire pit.
- When I’m finished a paper book, I can give it to someone else or sell it in a garage sale
- I can use a paper book to swat annoying insects. I wouldn’t want to do that with my phone!
- I can leave a paper book on the dash or back window of my car and it won’t melt
Probably someone has already published such a list, with more reasons or more humorously written, but these are mine.
On the opposite side, though, it takes a lot of room for a bunch of paper books; I have eight on my phone and it hasn’t got a millimeter larger or a milligram heavier! Also, with a paper book I am stuck with the font and size chosen by the publisher. With an ebook, I can change the type size and screen brightness. As my eyes age and teeny print become harder to see, that is increasingly important.
Posted on July 28th, 2015 No comments
Yahoo! Got my calling assignments:
August 13-15 – USA West Convention, Helena MT – Calling
- Thursday: 10:50am (MS)
- Friday: 2:40pm (MS), 8:30pm (MS)
- Saturday: 11:10am (MS), MC_2pm (MS)
I’m quite excited about this, because I was invited to call here. And our recent caller school has boosted my confidence somewhat.
Posted on July 4th, 2015 No comments
LucidBrake is a highly-visible stop light for cyclists, recently named by FreezeHD as one of the top five “must have” cycling innovations.
I bought V1 from the first campaign, and was impressed enough that I want to sell the improved Version 2. Improvements include stronger battery clips, improved battery life, a better cover, additional flash cycles, and a more positive shut-off system. To get yours, go to https://lucidbrake.com/buyalucidbrake.php?affi_code=TG (Look mobile porn in the top left corner to buy one!)
Mount it on your bike (or trike), backpack, or helmet. Keep it in the RV and when you are ready to switch to two wheels just pop it on using the special fastening system.
Everyone who sees it is impressed, as it really catches the attention (and lets motorists know where you are!). It has four flashing patterns –you select which one you want by however you mount the light– a “slow down” mode, and a “stop” mode.
Mount it, and it turns on when you move. Remove it from its mount, lay if flat, and it turns itself off (I usually pop a battery out just to be sure).
At $75 USD plus shipping, it costs somewhat more than your Walmart bike tail light — but how much is your life and safety worth?
Posted on June 30th, 2015 No comments
An Alex Chen lithograph, “Central Park South Center Drive” — mine, and mine alone! (well, except for a couple thousand other copies…)
We’re just back from a Baltic Cruise on Royal Princess. In one of the ship’s contests, I won a $100 certificate for an art auction. I hadn’t gone to any of these on previous cruises, so this was an incentive to see what it was about.
I sat with our tour organizers, Larry and Linda Isenor, who had attended the auctions on other cruises and had purchased several works. At this auction, pictures were selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Not for me! I wanted to give Larry and Linda my certificate and leave, but they assured me that there would be more reasonable items later.
Near the end, some unreserved items (no preset minimum bid) came up, and I bid my $100 for “Central Park South Center Drive” by Alexander Chen, a numbered and signed lithograph, matted and framed. In the end, I got it for $135 less my certificate, which I thought seemed to be a good deal. I also paid $35 USD for an appraisal, which will be mailed to me later.
The work was a “Take Off”, meaning as is/where is. It would have cost $90 as baggage on the plane, so I removed the big, heavy, beat-up black frame and discarded it and the glass. The matted print, wrapped in cardboard, survived the trip home as cabin baggage!
Now that I’m home, I looked up Chen, the “master of hyper-realism”. A poster version of the print is worth $35 USD, while the numbered and signed prints run about $135. Matted and framed, it might be worth around $300. I’ll have to pay about $100 to have it re-framed. Was I burned? Or did I get a good piece of art for a good price?
Posted on June 1st, 2015 No comments
“A fed-up school bus driver hits the brakes and opens the door. He tosses a backpack outside, then orders a 13-year-old boy off the bus, forcing him to walk home.” So begins a report by 660 News dated 1 Jun 2015. A 10-block walk home. Big deal.
It’s a tempest in a local teapot, hentai porn but it kind of illustrates what’s going wrong in our education system. I just watched the video of the kid punching and kicking another student then clouting the school bus driver in the head with a hockey bag. The incident was widely reported by local media. Watch the video taken by the driver’s dash-cam turned inwards.
Attacking the driver in such a fashion endangers the entire ridership of the bus. Granted there may be some issues with not delivering a students to his stop, but MO the driver’s action of ejecting the student(s)–which he appears to have done with firmness but without violence–was both fair and reasonable and provided immediate consequences.
I also think that Edmonton Catholic Schools spokesperson Lori Nagi is way off the mark. “The driver could have called 911″, she says. Sure, involve already over-worked police staff in a minor matter. “He could have pulled over and waited for things to settle down.” Sure, stop the bus and wait, and make everybody else on the bus late. I don’t think so.
The miscreant(s) involved were removed promptly and everybody else, I assume, got home safely and on time. The driver appears to me to have acted for the greatest good of the greatest number of students.
“The bottom line for our district is that safety of all students comes before anything else,” Nagy is quoted as saying. Wow, letting students attack the driver of a moving school bus really ensures the safety of the other students. But instead of demanding that the vicious little creepoid be charged with assault and suspended indefinitely, she wants the bus driver fired. Yup, coddle the criminal, punish the victim.
Her attitude of defending and supporting the juvenile delinquents and blaming the bus driver seems likely to encourage future misbehaviour because the little $@!#$s know that they can get away with it. To such students, a one-week suspension is not a punishment but a holiday.
The bus driver was right and Nagy is wrong. Riding the school bus is a privilege, not a right. Let ‘em walk until they smarten up.
Posted on January 15th, 2015 3 comments
Giles Early or Earley lived with the Gray family for at least eight years.
He first appears with the family in Norton, Kansas, on the 1875 state census, where he is listed as J. Earley, 7 (born c. 1868), Male, White. According to this census, Early was born in Minnesota and came to Kansas from that state, so he did not come with the Grays from Illinois.
He’s still there in 1880, age 10 or 11 (born c. 1869 or 1870) listed as Early Giles with Gray Nathan, Gray Sarah, Gray Alice, and Gray Addie. He is shown on that census as born in Illinois, his father born in Ohio and his mother in Pennsylvania, same as Alice and Addie. The earlier census is probably more accurate about his place of birth.
He is mentioned in family letters – “I don’t know where Giles went, he is as lazy as ever.” (Ella to JK, 13 Jan 1883; he would have been around 14). Two years later, he’s gone. He is not with the Grays on the 1885 state census, and I can’t find him elsewhere, nor can I find a death record. Who was he and why was he raised by the Grays?
Thomas Albert Gray recalls that a man named Early worked for the family in Millet, another clue that perhaps the families are related in some way.